Comic sales are actually increasing in unit sales (i.e. more comics sold, not just more money received) and that doesn’t count TPBs!
I’d like to dicker (there’s a word you don’t see often enough nowadays) with one of Stuart Moore’s statements, concerning the availability of entertainment today which is often blamed for low comic book sales:
But, you say, back in the Golden Age, books sold in the hundreds of thousands — sometimes in the millions. True, but consider this. Way back in my second column, I posted this list of competition for comics in the 1930s:
- radio (including dramas and comedies)
- live theatre (sporadic, unless you lived in a big city)
- public libraries
- magazines (especially the genre pulps)
Today, it looks more like this:
- television (many times more channels than even a decade ago)
- video/computer games
- radio (mostly music & talk now)
- live theatre (still sporadic)
- public libraries
That’s a much more formidable list of competitors — especially given the way we pay for cable TV and internet access. They’re like utilities: one bill a month, unlimited usage. That’s got to cut into pay-per-transaction industry like comics.
First off, is Stuart charting the list of things competing for the audience’s money or for the audience’s time? When the list includes things like public libraries, I’m assuming that he is chronicling the many options for “wasting time” without consideration for the cost involved.
That is a better argument than those who say that comic sales are low because of money spent on video games and Pokemon, as though kids have never had other things to waste money on before. Please. A decade ago it was Nintendo Cartridges and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. In my decade it was Atari 2600 cartridges, Star Wars action figures and thousands of quarters in arcade games. The decades before that it was pinball and toy soldiers and many other things that cost way more than 12 cents for a comic book.
But notice that, in Stuart’s estimation of options for using our time, he counts video games now and does not count games in the earlier decade, nor does he include sports which used to be a major hobby for kids (back when kids were scrawny and spent a lot of time outside running around). To count video games now as an added expenditure of kids’ time, but not consider that kids spent countless hours with marbles, jumprope, hopscotch, board games, toy soldiers, playing cops and robbers with toy guns, and playing baseball in any wide open area where you could consider a piece of wood a base, is a flawed way of thinking.
Kids don’t run around outside so much anymore because parents have become paranoid. I spent countless hours goofing off as a kid without my parents around, but many parents I know now seem to have a house arrest-like watch on their children lest they be kidnapped or drown in a swimming pool if left unguarded for even a second. While I think this is very bad for kids…it is good for comic books. If kids are spending all their time indoors, they could be reading comics.
Stuart also adds that we have more channels of TV to watch, as though this adds more hours of TV. Mayyyybe it does. I think it just means that kids have more options and don’t watch everything made for kids because they could never watch it all. But in my day, the era of “channels 2, 5 and 11 and Green Bay if you spin the UHF knob,” we still wasted tons of time on TV by watching anything even mildly acceptable. However, while statistics show that we all watch too much TV, one has to consider that this has more to do with lax parenting today than a surplus of channels. Good parents set limits on TV time (and Internet and video game time).
I might also add that in the olden Golden era Stuart is contrasting, radio shows were big and between the two mediums kids could always be entertained with something. Stuart’s analysis only works if kids had many hours where TV and radio failed to entertain and so kids turned to comic books more often back then.
In summary, I dispute his list of “fewer options then, more options now.”
I’ve said before, I’ll say again: Give a kid a comic today and he’ll read it. He’ll love it. I gave a friend’s kid a comic book and he carried it around everywhere he went for a week. Kids will read comics. They just can’t find comics. The price point is also an issue, sure, but price-packaging is a completely separate problem from availability.